Monday, December 14, 2015

Salafis Missed ‘Historic Chance’ to Be Part of Daghestan’s Power Structures Three Years Ago

Paul Goble
            Staunton, December 14 – Most commentators suggest that Salafi Muslims and traditional ones are completely incompatible. In fact, they are not as far apart as many think; and according to one Daghestani analyst, the Salafis in that North Caucasus republic about three years agobarely missed “a historic chance” to become part of Daghestan’s power structures.

            Timur Yusupov says that the current clashes between Salafis and Sufis in Russia’s most Muslim republic obscure the fact that despite all the violence between the two from 1999 on, there was a sufficient convergence that there were serious discussions about cooperation (

            Both the Salafis and the Sufis increased their activities after the end of the Soviet Union, and there were from the start differences between them theological, political and in terms of strategy, Yusupov says. The Sufis chose to strengthen themselves by taking over the republic Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD); the Salafis chose to direct their efforts toward the young.

            The high point of their “military-political” conflict was in 1999 “when Moscow sought to destroy the Salafi enclaves in the Kadar zone and Tsumadin district of the republic, but even after that, the Salafis were able to preserve their main bases and expand their influence because of a remarkable group of preachers.

            In the early 2000s, unknown people kidnapped some Salafi leaders and that led the Salafi communities to issue a series of ultimatums to Makhachkala.  In response, in 2011, the former head of the republic, Magomedsalam Magomedov organized a three-sided dialogue of the Salafis, the Sufis in the MSD, and the political authorities.

            According to Yusupov, that represented “a historic chance for Daghestani Salafis to acquire full social and political legitimacy and to be converted into a part of Daghestani society with all rights.” But despite some signs that they were going to do just that, this integration never happened.

            The Salafis were invited to be members of the adaptation commission, they were included in the republic’s Social Chamber, and Salafi communities and the MSD entered into intense negotiations and even adopted a joint resolution about cooperation, with each side promising not to provoke the other.

            But “the murder by militants of a Sufi spiritual leader” and “the coming to power in Daghestan of Ramazan Abdulatipov led to the complete wrapping up of the dialogue among the authorities, the muftiate and the Salafis,” Yusupov continues.

            Among the causes for this, he suggests, were the following: the Salafi communities were more opposed to cooperation with the Sufis than their leaders, Moscow was more hostile to the idea than it had been, and many Salafis left to go fight in Syria and Iraq thus weakening the position of the Salafi community in Daghestan.

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